Geeks love trying shiny new toys. For me that love extends to experimenting with new task management apps. Over the past year I’ve switched task management apps twice – once temporarily, and once for good (for now). About six months ago I switched from OmniFocus to TaskPaper, before eventually switching back. Most recently, I’ve switched from OmniFocus to Things, and it looks like that one will stick. I discovered a few benefits in that exploration.
You rethink how you do things
In the brief time I spent with TaskPaper, I discovered how much I enjoyed its simplicity, and how I was more efficient in digesting what needed to get done. There was just something appealing about its simple list view, with headings and indented entries.
My use of TaskPaper helped me realize that as much as OmniFocus was much more complicated, I could replicate that list view with a custom perspective. My custom perspective listed all my important contexts, with tasks (or next actions) below each context.
The list was long, but still scannable. For my type of work, that was better than wrangling with a custom context that (hopefully) surfaced the actions that were important for me. It also worked better (again, for me, in my line of work) than diving into specific projects to perform actions of my choosing, since my work isn’t project based.
You learn what is important
My dalliance with TaskPaper got me primed for switching to Things. First, it made me realize I value simplicity. I was ready for a tool that didn’t require as much fiddling as OmniFocus.
It also made me realize how important easy capture was in a system. The ability to capture actions and tasks from just about anywhere is one of the strengths of OmniFocus. I came up with several workarounds to capture items into TaskPaper, but there was still friction involved.
You clean out the cruft
A regular review process is supposed to help you clear items out of your system that should no longer be there. That doesn’t always happen, though. Over time, your task management app can get bloated with tasks and projects you’ll never touch.
Each time I switched systems, I forced myself to take a long, hard look at my projects and actions, and decide whether an item really needed to come over to the new system. I started lean and mean, but knowing full well that task creep would set in soon.
Yes, the primary purpose of any task management system is to help you get things done. But, as a I suggested at the start of this post, geeks often like trying out new toys. I found this to be the case with both TaskPaper and Things.
That spark of fun also translated into a burst of productivity. Instead of slowing down while I learned a new system, I found myself reinvigorated and getting more work done.
In a perfect world I’d find an app and stick with it. I hope Things is it, but I’m a realist and know I’ll always be tempted by the next big thing.